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Photographically In-Klein-ed

Culture Watch
"Photographs by Kelly Klein," published by Rizzoli.

By Sabrina Wirth

Considering all the visually seductive photographs Kelly Klein has captured over the years, it’s surprising to learn she’s never had any formal training. However, it may just be that lack of technical prowess that has aided her in creating some of her most compelling images.

In October, the fashion and style photographer will release “Photographs by Kelly Klein,” her new book with Rizzoli. The book is a retrospective of her work over the past 30 years, and includes photographs spanning her career to date, ranging from privately captured moments to portraiture and editorial work commissioned for magazines, including Vogue and Vanity Fair.

“All photographs are fragments of the past. They preserve what happened in a moment, somewhere and sometime,” says Klein. “The photographs collected in this book are traces of my life over the past 30 years—what I’ve seen and experienced, places I’ve lived and visited, people I’ve worked with, learned from and loved.”

Edited by Klein, the book is a catalog of a rich and varied canon of work that juxtaposes her contrasting styles to reveal a consistent sensibility—an effortlessness that reflects a natural translation of beauty in images. The photographs reveal a very human and approachable perspective into the glamorous lives often depicted from an outsider’s point of view. These are also the moments—captured usually with a simple point-and-shoot camera—that have inspired many of the images in the book. “I love being able to show people what I see through the camera, and inspire other people with the way I see things through the lens,” says Klein. Disarming and genuine like her photographs, Klein says that every photograph is a product of uncertain factors coming together at just the right moment. The weather, for example, might not cooperate on the day of a photo shoot, or a location or model might not work out. “You have to be flexible, make the best of it and keep taking photos.”

With her fashion work, when the elements do line up, Klein says “there’s nothing like taking a photo of Kate Moss or Christy Turlington; no matter what they do, it’s an amazing picture.” As for her candid photos, sometimes the images end up looking better than Klein had imagined. Perhaps the most talked-about image in the book is a photo she shot on a sailing trip in 1981. Klein calls it “Four Moguls Sleeping,” an intimate and personal shot of Barry Diller, Calvin Klein, David Geffen and Sandy Gallin sleeping. Her other favorite images are a 1996 Polaroid of Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, the snapshots of her son Lukas, the 1995 image of model Carolyn Murphy covered in mud in Santa Fe, New Mexico and the 2000 photograph of fashion model Georgina Grenville crouching down in her swimsuit among the trees in Palm Beach.

Klein again collaborated with Sam Shahid, former Calvin Klein art director and CEO of Sam Shahid & Co. in New York—she has worked with Shahid on six of her seven prior book projects—in editing the images for the book. “It’s an account of my influences, of who and what I admire. Many inspiring people have enriched my personal and professional lives,” Klein says.

The process took three years as the pair reviewed thousands of negatives. “It was very, very challenging,” says Klein. “It’s a personal journey of my life through pictures.”


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